Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

(BBC, PG)

Matt Smith’s final season as the Doctor arrived on DVD in late 2013.

It seems hard to believe that we were first introduced to the 11th and 12th Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in the first episode of the series which aired in 2012.

We wondered, back then, what the heck show runner Steven Moffat was playing at when he introduced the Doctor’s new companion within a Dalek travel machine and then killed her at the episode’s conclusion.

The episode was called Asylum of the Daleks and aired on the BBC on September 1, 2012.

It was as epic as the movie style poster created to advertise it, showing the Doctor carrying an unconscious Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) through the flames of a Dalek mad house.

Not everyone liked Amy, for her over impulsiveness, but I loved her relationship with the Doctor and husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) and was genuinely upset when they departed the show half way through the season.

The Angels Take Manhattan was a fitting swan song for the Ponds and, once again, Moffat showed what an excellent writer he was as he tugged on the heart strings again and again throughout this episode.

There’s so many great moments in it. The idea that the Statue of Liberty was a massive Weeping Angel was genius and obvious at the same time. The closing scenes are throat lump inducing.

In the middle of that first half of the season we finally met Rory’s dad, Brian, who has a wonderful workman moment in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. He is glimpsed with his feet hanging out of the front door of the TARDIS, packed lunch and flask of tea in hand, admiring the wonders of the universe as she flies through space. Modern Doctor Who is made of great, crazy, moments as these. I dearly wished we had seen more of his character, who shines brightly in The Power of Three.

Clara, of course, returned in 2012’s Christmas special The Snowmen and died in that before returning in The Bells of Saint John which aired on March 30. It was a long time to wait for new Who so thank the Time Lords for the BBC’s release of classic Who on DVD and Big Finish Productions’ new audio plays in the meantime.

The second half of Season 7 was more of a mixed bag than the first with some true classics like Wellington writer Neil Cross’s musical extravaganza Rings of Akhaten (Murray Gold’s brilliant score is now available on CD) and ghost (or is that love?) story Hide. There’s also a few clunkers, which is a shame, but you can’t win them all.

Because of its premise, about the adventures of an alien adventurer who travels through time and space in a police box which is bigger on the inside, Doctor Who can be set anywhere and tell any genre of story. So some are bound to work better than others and some will not appeal if they are made in genres you are not a fan of.

I found some of my favourites were loathed by others, and vice versa, but we were all agreed that the best episode of the season was the finale The Name of the Doctor which came packed with surprises. It explained how Clara could appear in so many past stories, including with all 10 of Smith’s predecessors, and was a real love letter to fans. And boy, what a cliff hanger, introducing John Hurt as the Doctor. But where, oh where, does he fit in. Spoilers.

But there’s more reasons to buy this boxed set than just having the whole season in one five disc set and that’s the extras.

There’s more than three hours, some of which are little prequel webisodes which feed into key episodes. Yes, some of them are already online, but here they are in one place in this set, and they do help set up some of the stories.

There are also three good documentaries on the Doctor’s companions, the science of the show and how the series is viewed in the US.

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DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

The recent death of Deborah Watling, who played companion Victoria Waterfield alongside the late Pat Troughton’s Second Doctor, gives this DVD release an extra poignancy.

Watling died on July 21, aged 69, as I worked my way through the six documentaries in this excellent two disk set comprising a new introduction and six previously released Myth Makers documentaries. Sadly, Watling’s death means half of the actors featuring in this set are no longer with us.

Troughton died in 1987 and Michael Craze, who played companion Ben Jackson, in 1998. This DVD set features them in their own documentaries on Disc 1 alongside Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, who played companions Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot, feature in their own documentaries on Disc 2 alongside Watling.

The set is rounded off with a new introduction from interviewer Nicholas Briggs and Producer Keith Barnfather.


Briggs and Barnfather, which sounds like an august legal firm, are absolutely delightful as they introduce this set filmed in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these features were filmed before Doctor Who sadly left British screens in 1989, or before it returned bigger and better in 2005. It’s obvious from watching and listening to what they have to say that these are two very good friends united in their love for Doctor Who many moons ago.

“Patrick, unfortunately, we never interviewed for Myth Makers,” Barnfather reveals.

Briggs, probably better known for his work with Big Finish Productions and as the voice of the Daleks and other nasties in new era Doctor Who, fesses up to loving Troughton’s Doctor the most.

“He was the one who established, sort of, the character of the Doctor we know today,” Briggs opines. “Patrick Troughton was the prototype for every other Doctor that’s come since him.”

As well as being the name of the missing second story in the third series of original Doctor Who, Myth Makers was a series of documentaries celebrating the first seven Doctors and their companions. Each documentary featured Briggs interviewing one of the cast about their time on the show, and their career before and after it.

The Troughton documentary in this set, then, is the original Myth Makers documentary grabbed from footage of an interview conducted in Brighton in 1985 at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society convention. But this documentary is far more sophisticated than pointing the camera at the stage for 50 minutes focussed on the actor. The piece is balanced with interviews from other Doctor Who cast and crew, starting with former head of BBC TV Drama Shaun Sutton who had known Troughton before World War II.

“Even in those days Patrick had those same deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun,” Sutton offers.

“He was just a great fun person,” informs Hines. “Everything could be turned into a joke.”

Anneke Wills’ Myth Makers opens to a Mark Knopfleresque guitar solo set against an idyllic Norfolk countryside, where Wills admits to being her happiest. It’s 1993 and Wills has returned to England after years overseas, including time in a spiritual community in India. She tells Briggs her story from the comfort of a living room, the ruins of a church left behind after its parish was devastated by the Black Death, from the sand dunes on the beach at Cromer, and from the flower garden.
It’s an intimate interview, and Wills is warm and wistful.

Craze is interviewed in 1985, at the Otter Bar in the Norfolk hotel he managed, and again in the Myth Makers studio surrounded by a Dalek, Cyberman and war machine, in 1996.

“We didn’t really quite know how they were going to do it,” Crave reveals of the first regeneration from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton. “All I remember is it took a long time and in those old-fashioned days they literally superimposed the two heads on black backgrounds . . . It took a long time.”

Briggs does a Through The Keyhole intro to the Hines documentary, filmed at Hines’ home/horse stud in Yorkshire in 1994. This is probably the most relaxed of the Myth Makers interviews in this set, so it’s no surprise to learn in the introduction that Hines and Briggs are now great friends, and it’s nice to see a little of Hines’ horse stud in operation.

But the highlight is some behind the scenes footage of The Abominable Snowmen shot on location, in colour, at Snowdonia National Park.

Briggs turns to This Is Your Life for the inspiration for the opening of Watling’s Myth Makers interviews. They were conducted at Monster Con in Liverpool in 1986 on concrete pavers, with additional material shot in 1995.

“I didn’t want her to be soppy and silly and wimpy,” Watling says as she reveals she played against the script.” Of course, the girls in those days, they did tend to be like that . . . Purely because Jamie and the Doctor had to come and rescue them.”

Padbury is treading the boards with the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee at the New Theatre, Cardiff, in Superted And The Comet Of The Spoons in 1986, when Briggs catches up with her for Myth Makers. The interview is augmented with a more recent studio chat in which Padbury confirms her favourite story is The Mind Robber.

“I don’t think there was anything superficial about Pat and Frazer and I,” she says of the dream TARDIS team. “The friendship grew and working together became easier.”

The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years is, in the best possible way, like two DVDs full of top quality extras. Except there’s so many of them that there’s no room for the main feature. It’s the first time that I had seen any of this material, and it made me feel nostalgic for an era of Doctor Who that aired before I was born in 1972.

Cyberman

CybermanIt was such a joy to hear my native Isle of Wight play such an integral part in this recent Doctor Who audio release from Big Finish Productions.

Listeners can get the previously released Cyberman – Series 1 and 2 on CD or as a download in an exclusive offer available only through the Big Finish website.

“Slow, deliberate and more than a little bit terrifying. That’s the best way to describe Cyberman – The Complete Series 1 and 2 from Big Finish Productions,” I said in my review on bogtorwho.com.

“The fact that these series’ script, by Nicholas Briggs and James Swallow, moves at the same pace as the mechanised men and women that are the Cybermen is surely no coincidence. In fact, Briggs and Swallow deserve high praise indeed for pulling off such a clever feat.”

Hear the trailer.

Big Finish Synopsis

“There Is Nothing To Fear…”

Mankind is fighting a long and costly war with its android creations in the Orion System. The deadlock must be broken at all costs. The President of Earth is offered an unthinkable strategy that cannot be refused.

Deep below the ocean, an ancient spaceship has been discovered. One that contains the remains of the great civilisation we could have been if we’d taken another path. A purer path…

Now the Scorpius strategy is in full operation. Silver legions stand impassive in every city; mankind has sacrificed its freedoms and a web of lies and deceit draws ever tighter. Only one choice remains – resist or surrender…

Written By: Nicholas Briggs & James Swallow

Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Mark McDonnell (Liam Barnaby/Nash), Hannah Smith (Samantha Thorn/Computer), Barnaby Edwards (Paul Hunt/Comms), Sarah Mowatt (Karen Brett/Supervisor/Welsh Citizen), Ian Brooker (Yan/Hendry/Helliton/Glaust/Protestor/Karen’s Father/Commander/Security/Goran), Ian Hallard (Chessman), Toby Longworth (Levinson/Prime Riordan/Pilot/Public Address/Soldier/Captain/PA Voice/Policeman/Government Official/Studio Manager), Lizzie Hopley (Brinna/Secretary/Comp), Samantha Sanns (SSC Control/Comp/Helm/Operations Officer/Android/Nav Comp/Liam’s Comp/Refugee), Jo Castleton (Hazel Trahn), Andrew Dickens (Milo Taggart), Toby Hadoke (Louis Richter), Martin Trent (Merced), Cal Jaggers (Becca Trahn), Jess Robinson (Janice Webb), Stuart Crossman (The News) and Nicholas Briggs (The Cybermen/CyberPlanner/CyberLeader)